Dallas Mavericks: Did Willie Cauley-Stein fix the Mavs?

: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /
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Willie Cauley-Stein, Center, Dallas MavericksMandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Willie Cauley-Stein, Center, Dallas MavericksMandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Dallas Mavericks: Offense

In the two games Cauley-Stein has started, his offensive rating is 182. You read that correctly, 182! That means when he’s in the game the offense is scoring 182 points per 100 possessions. It is a small sample size and will naturally regress to the mean, but even then, how is he having such a positive impact right now?

He is finishing near the basket better than Dwight Powell. Cauley-Stein is converting 66.7 percent of his shots near the basket compared to Powell’s 64.3 percent. While the percents differ by all of 2.5 points, the trick might be that Cauley-Stein is shooting a higher percentage of his baskets right next to the rim.

84 percent of Cauley-Stein’s shot attempts are within three feet of the basket. Powell only attempts 58 percent of his shot attempts within three feet of the basket. This is about ten percent lower than last year and it seems to be having a serious negative impact on his efficiency.

Last season, Powell shot a career-high 72.4 percent from the floor. Even though he only averaged 9.4 points per game, he had a 134 offensive rating and had a positive offensive box plus/minus. The threat of Powell as a rim runner and screen setter was apparently larger with Kristaps Porzingis also sharing the floor. Without another big man, Powell is clearly having a harder time rolling to the basket and it is forcing him to take farther shots.

Replacing Hardaway Jr with Kleber might’ve helped clear the paint for Powell as more attention would’ve been given to Kleber because of his three-point shooting, however, Cauley-Stein being way more efficient likely proves that we were overrating Powell’s offensive game. Cauley-Stein has attempted eight field-goal attempts in the last two games and has converted on 75 percent of his field goals. His strength and explosiveness seem to be resulting in easier opportunities for baskets.

The previous starting lineup was shooting 37.2 percent from the field and 26.5 percent from the three-point line in nine minutes per game. This new starting lineup is shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from three in 13 minutes per game. Two things stand out with these numbers.

The three-point efficiency in both lineups is pretty bad but there is a noticeable improvement with the current lineup. Even the improvement in field goal percentage is so significant it takes the Mavericks from one of the worst shooting teams to near the top of the league.

The second thing is the Mavericks shooting efficiency is getting better even with more volume. It is only four minutes per game extra, but Dallas is now averaging six more field goal attempts per game and three more three-point attempts per game. Going back to the point about rebounding, more rebounds on both sides of the ball create more opportunities for the offense to score. They all seem to be playing hand-in-hand right now.

But perhaps the most important thing Cauley-Stein provides to the team isn’t either of the two things I’ve mentioned. In fact, it has little to do with his playing ability.